Inching Toward Collectibility: 1982 Buick Century Limited

Incredible as it may be to believe, as the calendar marches into a new year General Motors’ first front-wheel drive A-bodies are now 36 years old. That puts us that much closer to the day when these once-ubiquitous American family cars become perceived as minor classics. I see you all clutching your pearls in horror at the thought—They’re front-wheel drive! They made millions of them!—but mark my words and remember that just a few years ago the equivalent Colonnade A-bodies of less than a decade earlier, or the downsized 1978-81 A-bodies were seen as little more than disposable Malaise-era junkers, and now they’re popping up on sites like, well, this one. It’s going to happen, and if it can make a few more years this nicely preserved, this ’82 Buick Century Limited sedan may be one of the cars leading that charge. If you’re one of the vanguard, you can find it here on craigslist out of Brick, New Jersey for just $2,500 (archived ad).

I’ll grant you, of the A-bodies, a plain-Jane Century wouldn’t be my first candidate for collectibility. It’s no Century T-Type, or Pontiac 6000STE, or Chevy Celebrity Eurosport VR, or even powered by the Oldsmobile-built diesel. Still, this Century Limited sedan boasts an unusual and period-appropriate color scheme, an interesting options mix, nice condition, and only 57,000 miles on the clock.

The biggest surprise for me was the fitment of individual (can’t really call them buckets when they’re this flat) front seats and a center console, unusual for an A-body with no sporting pretensions; heck, even my dad’s Celebrity Eurosport, ostensibly the sporty version of the Chevy, had a front bench. Also interestingly, while the Buick boasts a full complement of power accessories, its AM/FM Delco stereo does without a cassette player. Interior condition front and rear is remarkably nice; the chunky buckle on that center rear lap belt brings back fond memories of whacking my brother to stave off road trip boredom, under threat of getting strapped to the roof rack.

Hard to believe, but in the ’80s an average family car like this was still more likely than not to be carbureted; the 3-liter Buick V6 breathes through its Rochester two-barrel carb to produce all of 110 horsepower, with a three-speed Turbo Hydramatic putting that power down. The only noted issue is that the power steering “needs work;” I would add my concern about the state of the underhood insulation, but otherwise there’s nothing too complicated to go wrong in here.

Flaws seen in the photos include this missing piece of trim at the base of the rear window, what is hopefully just grime between the edge of the trunk opening and the weatherstripping, and a slight case of front bumper droop. Otherwise, this Buick is a level of clean just not seen anymore. That’s the thing—there were once so many of these cars, and so many people remember them, but so few are left in nice condition; them’s the makings of a future classic right there.

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Comments

  1. Redwagon

    Seems to me that cars are collectable in part bc of the styling and variety of models offered. A 1st generation Camaro looks good whether it’s a 3-speed or a Yenko. But the memories of what was possible with an SS 396 make even the lowly 3-speed 6 banger collectable.

    In my mind the era that this Buick represents was neither well styled nor powerful enough to be memorable. Especially since in 1982 muscle cars were still prowling the streets.

  2. Superdessucke

    I say no. The most collectable this will get will be for hipster irony purposes.

  3. wagonWillie

    Nice find. I think there will be a day when these are collectible. Remember there was a time a ’57 Chevy was just a used car that regular people drove. These A-bodies are what people drove in the 1980s. As they approach the 40 year mark, people with disposable income will want to get the car they remember from their childhood.

    If you bring a low mileage, clean A-body like this to a summer time cruise night, you might get more attention than the guy with the 1969 Camaro.

    I will also say that these A-bodies had the best interior space utilization I have ever seen for their size. Easily more rear seat leg room than a W-body with a much longer wheelbase.

    • Paul D Hudson

      I think the wagons will become collectible even sooner. I’m not a GM guy but they were decent cars for the time. They had great visibility and were fairly reliable. I’d agree they were spacious for the time. My favorite would be the Chevy Eurosports.

      • Andre

        Whenever I see an A-body wagon it still turns my head..

        Our family had a bunch as I grew up – 85, 88, 92, 93 and finally a 94… all wagons. Were all really good cars too.

  4. David Zornig

    Great cars.
    Ordered and delivered hundreds of them.
    Rack & pinion was the weak link when they got older.
    Only noticeable when turning left when it was cold.
    Our used car salesman took to taking right turn only test drives.
    Always buy the continuous protection plan…

  5. Just4Kixx

    I’ve often said that the vehicles that seem least likely to ever be collectible when built, end up being collectible when old. You know all those Darts, Novas, Falcons, Valiants, Chevelles, and even Camaros and Mustangs? When new they were run-of-the-mill cars, and most of them were boring old economy cars at that. Volkswagen Beetles, AMC Gremlins & Pacers, Chevy Vegas and Ford Pintos are all starting to become collectible. As they get older, so will the Chevettes, Omnis, Escorts, etc. What makes an old car desirable is about 30% the car itself, and about 70% the times those cars represent. Many people my age (mid 40’s) will have a soft spot in our hearts for old Chevettes, Omnis, etc, because those were our first cars (well, not me, mine was a very tired ’78 Trans Am, but all my friends were driving Chevettes & such). We all wanted muscle cars but we actually drove beaters. Those beaters played a huge part in our memories, and I’d bet that at any local car show a pristine two-door 1986 Chevette would get more attention from 40-somethings than a run-of-the-mill Camaro or Mustang would. Hell, locally there’s a couple who had a Hyundai Pony (my husband’s first car) and now they have an even rarer Stellar (I had one). I almost ditched my car when I saw those cars parked out front!

  6. Dan

    You guys may be onto something. Nothing very exciting about most Ford falcons, but some guys will spend big bucks on them. Who knows?

  7. Rx7turboII

    I love this site. A few weeks ago I submitted a really rare and neat 1957 ladawri Sebring and it never made it on The site but this run of the mill 4 door grandma car does…? Lol. I guess you have to be one of the “popular” submitters to get anything noticed on BF. ( not bitter at all.. Hehehe)

    • Steve R

      They have had them on this site before. Did you ask them why it wasn’t featured?

      Steve R

    • Nathan Avots-Smith Member

      I saw the Sebring submission, and thought it was really interesting—I even searched my reference library to see if I had any info about it. I didn’t, so I thought it best to leave that one to someone else; everyone here has different areas of expertise, and cars like the Sebring aren’t mine. I hope someone does write it up!

  8. JimmyJ

    I appreciate the variety of vehicles on this site but I don’t think there is a car more vanilla than this.

  9. Steve R

    The real use for this car in the future would be as background scenery for a period movie or TV show.

    Steve R

  10. Nrg8

    I had a 88 Pontiac 6000 le wagon 2.5 iron duke 4cyl, with a 4 speed standard. The manual came out of an 86 6000. Weekend change over. It looked nice, silver with blacked out windows. Grey interior seats were terrible. Great on fuel, and a set of 15″ Pontiac aluminum wheels off a grand prix gt. But the car just felt cheap. Came out of university. My steering wheel club was on the ground where I parked. Police found the car upside down 2 days later. Steering wheel was hacksawed and column was punched by the signal light. Fresh snow, took a corner too fast, came in against a 6 inch curb and dumped it over. I was gonna sell it at summer break anyway. Insurance paid out. I didn’t by another so it really left no impression. Notable? Hmm got the wagon 6 yrs old for 1800. But these were like everywhere forsale. And the tranny was tired. Bought a sedan with a stick high miles for 900 and the rest was history. Plentiful cheap cars. You could literally go into any neighborhood and see 6-7 of some variation of this platform on the block.

    • DweezilAZ

      That $900 sedan with a stick must have been an X Body Skylark, then. FWD A Bodies never came with a manual.

  11. Pete Phillips

    I have a 1985. Same model, looks just like this one, even has the center console and individual front seats. Mine has the optional 3.8 V-6 with fuel injection, same engine as they put in the full-size Buicks in 1986 & up, so it really gets up and goes; gets a steady 25 mpg; has the same left turn problem in cold weather; bought it two summers ago from a 98-year-old lady who gave up driving. 115,000 miles. Paid $1200 for it and put in a new water pump, radiator, battery, and tires. Can’t get my money back on it if I sell it, so I just use it as a daily driver. It’s reliable, quick, reasonably economical, handles well, has great A/C, nice factory radio, and if it gets wrecked or quits running I’ll sell it to the salvage yard.

    • Dan

      I drove a rental ‘84 Buick Century and I remember being impressed with stereo system and the nice ride. Loved the comfortable steering wheel too. I would have this in a heartbeat.

  12. Poppy

    The 3.0 Liter is a de-stroked 3.8 sharing the same bore. My wife had an ’83 Century with the same engine while we were dating. The electro-mechanical carb gave it some driveability problems at times, but overall a great car. Sold it to get a used ’92 3.3L Ciera with fuel injection. That was also a great car. Simple, reliable, economical, roomy. Both cars hit 200K. That said, I don’t see a huge market for even the low mileage ones.

  13. Jack M.

    One way to slow down the steering box failures on these cars is to change the power steering fluid every 6 months. Very cheap insurance.

    • Nrg8

      You guys is kidding about about this right. If the fluid is going mucky grey within 6 months, failure is around the corner. Longer you wait will almost certainly eat the pump too. You can get a reman with inner tie rods with a 3 year warranty for 70 dollars. That grey mucky fluid is saying hey” a seal let go, I am taking in contaminants like water and now I’m eating the bearings up, making shavings and corroding the aluminum or cast housing. That is why it’s silvery sparkly before it goes mucky.

  14. D.L.Page

    I wouldn’t trade it for my 79 Century Turbo Coupe.

  15. Rock On Member

    My wife had an 1984 Buick Skyhawk and a 1988 Oldsmobile Cierra. If you keep changing the power steering fluid every six months or so you can really extend the life of the power steering rack.

  16. GP Member

    I have a 1986 Buick Century with the 3.8 and buckets, console, leather seats. It has 86,000 miles on it. I’ve had it for about 15 years. Needs to be painted to look as good as this one.( someday) Not a fan of the 3.0 carb. engine, nice other wise.

  17. Miguel

    If I remember correctly, and I do, the 1982, and only the 1982, version of this car had clear or white side marker lights. This one does not.

    As for collectibility, there has to be somebody out there that would want to buy this as a collectible. I don’t think that will happen any time soon as there is still a ton of them on the streets.

    Now with that said, this car could probably give you years of service for that price point.

  18. Maestro1 Member

    David Zornig has it right, down to the steering issue! GM was selling a half million of these a year without advertising and suddenly decided to stop building them, another stupid mistake on their part. I am convinced that the only reason the company stayed afloat during the 2008 Depression was because there were 285,000 workers (read Voters) employed by the factory. Certainly Management was no good.

  19. ccrvtt

    “Minor classic”? Must be pretty minor. My mother was an antiques dealer and appraiser. On the subject of future collectibles she would often say, “If it wasn’t good to begin with it won’t be good later.”

  20. Coventrycat

    Right there with that GMC Syclone a week before as a future collectible. If you have to wait another 20 years for people to find a 30+ year car interesting you have way too much time to waste.

  21. Chris

    These cars are serious garbage. My dad bought a new 84 with the 3.0L v6. He ordered it red with a gray interior. The factory called him and said they could not get red paint but they had maroon. He said Ok and when the car arrived it looked horrible. At 1100 miles both heads had to be removed because of coolant in the oil. Car ran terrible when it was cold, the rpms would surge and the engine would die if you gave it too much gas. Had it in for warranty many times for various things that the dealer never could fix. It was a time when GM had horrible engineering and poor quality. It cost them dearly. I remember being shocked as a 17 year old that a company could produce such garbage.

    • DweezilAZ

      That was one car out of millions of A bodies produced over years of production. It happens.

      • Chris

        Ya I don’t know. Lots of really bad designs in that car. Obvious stuff that would not be reliable. Also was at a very bad time for GM quality. I remember touring the GM assembly plant in Kansas City around this time and the place was a dark, messy dump. It was a far cry from today’s modern plants that focus on quality and visual process control. You could also tell the workers did not care about the work they were doing. Most were stumbling around, reading the paper, smoking, etc.

        I hear about this era of Buicks lasting for 200k mile and I find it to be a miracle, but it must happen….

  22. John C Cargill

    I worked for a Buick dealer from 76-83 and an Olds dealer from 83-85 these were very popular. That color especially. Reliable, yes but the 3.8s were prone to failure early on. I later 86 went to work for a service contract company. I’ll tell you right now the steering problem was the rack they called it morning sickness. My favorite problem with the early ones was what Buick referred to as a “loose lumber” noise in the rear. 6 tsbs on it finally the tech bulletin said, This nearly verbatim- remove the vehicle from customer area pull out spare tire and “reshape” the bottom of the tire well with a soft hammer. The metal was drumming over bumps.It worked.

  23. AF

    Again… Try to get it for a much lower price. Then put the Pizza Delivery sign on top and beat it up until it won’t move any more. Then pull tags and walk away. Nothing to see here.

  24. Steve O

    Should change site name to “ANY FINDS” since any car now qualifies.

  25. Daved N.

    Perhaps a T-Type Century has some collectibility?

  26. Mike B.

    Bought a similar 94 Olds Cutlass Cierra 56K miles, needs a little work but I expect to get 4 years or 50,000 miles out of it. Love old GM products.

  27. Mark Evans

    One of my brother in laws has a real weakness for these. Buys 2 so he can make 1 good one. Unfortunately another of our brother in laws {the mechanic) gets stuck doing all the work. Lasts about 1 to 2 years before they start disintegrating again. Style-Not much substance.

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